Embrace the Good Habits

Well, it's coming up to that time of year when some people may be thinking about those New Year resolutions like…

  • I will stop smoking
  • I will eat healthier
  • I will drink less alcohol
  • I will exercise more
  • etc etc…

I read a statistic that 70%+ of New Year resolutions are in tatters after the first 2-3 weeks of the year which is not much of a surprise because they are usually attempted through sheer will power alone, which cannot always be sustained. Making a major decision to end a bad habit or start a new habit, simply because of the time of year is simply not enough of a good reason for it to be successful.

There is a phenomenon called Ego Depletion which means you start to lose your motivation behind a decision over time. You only have so much mental energy, so you will start to question your initial decision and find it hard to sustain the same motivation you had when you first made that resolution.

One way to eliminate a ‘bad' habit is to replace it with a ‘good' habit. Some research performed in 2009 and published in the European Journal of Social Psychology suggests the average time to reach maximum ‘automaticity' – by which time a habit was ingrained – was 66 days. However, the range varied greatly between participants, from 18 days to much longer than 66. Obviously individuals vary greatly and personally I think 2 months is a long time for most people to have changed or developed a new automated habit.

There is a fast-track to habit-forming though which is through Hypnosis. I'm midway through a 1 year course to become a fully qualified Hypnotherapist with Chrysalis and set to complete my training in May 2016. We tend to be creatures of habit and often get stuck in a particular way of behaviour. To change something you need to be able to visualise the benefits of that change and to help your mind understand why you want to change, otherwise you just easily drift back into the old, familiar ways of behaving. Hypnotherapy is a form of complementary therapy that utilises the power of positive suggestion to bring about subconscious change to our thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

SMOKING

smoking

Bad habits are formed because of having false beliefs you may have about a particular habit. For example a smoker may feel that when they are puffing away that it helps to reduce their stress levels when in actual fact research from the British School of Psychiatry has shown that smoking actually increases stress and anxiety. Hypnosis will basically change those false beliefs and train the subconscious mind to give up the attachment to the habit by installing the new, true belief and so they will find breaking the habit becomes much easier as it reduces the desire to smoke.

When I was younger I smoked cigarettes and marijuana in the past when I lived in London but managed to stop through simple self-hypnosis and changing the people that I was spending time with who were involved in those bad habits, which is another key point. One of the secrets to maintaining any healthy pattern is to hang out and make friends with other healthy and active individuals who already have those good habits you are looking to develop. It's better to ditch or spend much less time with people who regularly display the bad habits that you want to stop. Select social groups, hobbies and activities that will naturally lead you to healthier patterns.

DRINKING

When I lived in London I tended to drink quite a bit. I guess it was partly because I moved there on my own when I was 17 and felt it was the best way to socialise but it's also because I have an addictive personality and I went nuts for the best part of 15 years. A couple of my best mates when I first moved to London were a hard-drinking Aussie and an equally hard-drinking Kiwi. When they eventually departed I spent more time with ‘smokers' and developed more bad habits. These changed when I moved to Glasgow 10 years ago.

I quit smoking about 8 years ago although I still occassionally stumble when it comes to alcohol as it's so prevalent up here as a means of social interaction. It's something I am working on and in the last few months I've been practicing regular yoga classes which helps so much because you definitely don't want to be practising yoga with a hangover. Yoga has so many positive changes physically and mentally that you actually end up eating better and drinking less, so for me it is a form of Kryptonite for my bad habits. Christmas has proven tough and there is a definite correlation between reduced yoga classes and increased alcohol consumption! I can relate to the video above, I lived my life like that for many years and know a lot of people up here who are in that same boat and yet consider it to be ‘normal' behaviour to drink to excess on a regular basis. I don't believe they actually think they have a problem with drink, maybe it's denial, perhaps it's because everyone they hang out with is doing it but I can see the negative impacts on them as individuals. It's certainly something I will be changing in 2016 with increased yoga practice, abstinence and self-hypnosis techniques.

Units

Going ‘cold-turkey' can feel very strange and uncomfortable if it has become a ‘habit' that you want to change. There will be feelings of discomfort which can be eased by continuing the habitual behaviour then you will feel fine…for a bit.

Also when you take certain substances, such as alcohol on a regular basis, it actually physically changes your brain. However, the effect becomes less powerful as time goes by and your body gets used to alcohol which means you need to consume more of it for the same effect which can mean your consumption gradually creeps up.

I'm really loving the DrinkAware App which you can get via their website and actually logging your units and seeing how any calories it equates to and when you are getting near the danger point helps a lot with keeping your consumption in check. In January I will be taking part in the Dryathlon for Cancer Research. Please feel free to donate by clicking the image below.

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DIET AND EXERCISE

One of the problems with making a decision like “I want to lose a stone” or going on a 7-day or 14-day diet is that these are not sustainable in the long-term. It requires a lifestyle change. I'm loving my regular yoga practice and last Saturday was involved in a fantastic charity event at Merchant City Yoga with a bunch of great Yogi's raising money for Yogability. It was a great way to spend a Saturday, even though I didn't know anyone there was a real sense of community and was great to spend the day with like-minded individuals. When I came out of the studio I felt a real sense of achievement to have raised money for a fantastic cause and a calmness of mind in amongst the melee of Christmas Shoppers along Argyle Street of which I may have been a part of in previous years. Research shows that being kind to others increases our own levels of happiness as well as theirs. What's more it has a knock-on effect – kindness is contagious, so it makes our communities nicer places to be.

You can donate to the charity via the following link

I'm actually doing an MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) diploma in my spare time at the moment and studying various NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) techniques and there is something called Parts Integration technique which helps to resolve inner conflicts. So, for example you want to be fit and lose weight but the taste of pizza or chocolate is so yummy. Or you want to exercise but also want to relax in front of the television so there is conflict. I will not go into full details on this as I'm still really learning about it myself but the following video on YouTube actually shows the technique in action and fits in well with Hypnotherapy as a way to make deep-seated changes as the subconscious level.

SUMMARY

Rather than make a list of things that you want to stop or start from January 1st, try instead to think about the life you want to be living and the person you want to be through the year and beyond. Visualise your future self and just start putting in place regular routines to help you get there. Meditate for 5-10 minutes each day and practice self-hypnosis techniques to ensure your positive decisions remain deep-seated and to be calmer about those habit changes. Sacrifice a night out drinking with an hour spent at an exercise class or home practice with yoga. There are plenty of resources for all the above on YouTube. Also have a read through the excellent Leo Babauta's Zen Habits site for inspiration.

Try some healthy snacks, carrots, celery and a smoothie or healthy juice instead of reaching for those cigarettes, cakes, chocolate, crisps or cans of soda. Drink more water or herbal teas instead of going for the daily caffeine fix. Try eating vegetarian for an extra night a week. Do something positive for a charity you believe in or just volunteer somewhere. De-Cluttering and taking unwanted items to charity shops is another positive thing you can do to simplify your wardrobe and help out those in need. The main thing is not to set unrealistic targets and just try to introduce a gradual habit or two into your life on a regular basis and you will begin to reap the rewards.

I hope you all have a great Christmas and a fantastic year ahead. Love & Peace, Dave x.

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